Fellowship / Observership at the Department of Thoracic Surgery

The Department of Thoracic Surgery offers young and talented scientists and clinicians the possibility to apply for a Fellow- or Observership. The aim of the Fellow- and Observership of the Department of Thoracic Surgery is to provide the possibility to get a picture into the daily business and the research of the Thoracic Surgery.


Apply now for the six-month “Lung Volume Reduction Fellowship (LVRS).”

More information

Please be aware that in order to apply for a fellowship at the University Hospital Zurich, you will need German language skills and obtain (at least) a B2 level German language diploma / certificate. Unfortunately, we cannot offer you a fellowship with clinical activity without a language diploma.


Are you interested in our Fellowship or Observership? You can apply via the following button. We are looking forward!

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What our fellows and observers have to say about their assignment at the Department of Thoracic Surgery

Kostas Kostopanagiotou PhD, MD, senior physician at the University Hospital of Athens (Greece) has completed a one-year fellowship, from February 2021 to February 2022, in our clinic. During this time he was involved in a project looking at “liquid biopsy” in patients with early stage lung cancer. The concept is that non-invasive molecular profiling in patients with completely resected early stage lung tumors, may indicate the need for additional therapy (immunotherapy). This could increase the long-term survival of patients.

When asked to describe his experience with us, he says there is strong involvement in current translational research for lung cancer. This is due to simultaneous participation in complex lung cancer surgical procedures, work with a highly experienced laboratory team, educational tumor board meetings, access to all relevant scientific publications, and high level academic support from the supervising professor.

He feels that for thoracic pathologies (from chronic pulmonary hypertension to advanced lung cancer), the most advanced treatments are offered by a highly experienced team.

Finally, he adds: “As a daily routine are tips n’ tricks shared by the surgeons, lab-techniques explained by the lab-team and discussion of difficult cases management. The team of THO works in a very professional, scientific and friendly manner providing outstanding quality in clinical and academic work. Visit this department is a strong augmentation factor for a young’s surgeon career

Regarding the organization of his stay, he says: “Excellent and rapid response on all aspects by a very efficient administration team. Everything was shorted-out by the first arrival day. Thereafter the team has been very supportive on every work-related issue or request.

The partners of the USZ (WOKO team) arranged accommodation with no delays and the provided flat was even better than described and at a very sensible pricing. The daily commute is less than half an hour by tram or three quarters on foot since Zurich is a safe and scenic city ideal for walking. Unlimited escapes to the breath-taking peaks and slopes are easily reachable by public transportation.»

Thank you Kostas, it was great to have you on our team.

Eleonora Faccioli from Padua (Italy) has completed a six-month fellowship, from November 2021 to May 2022, in our clinic. She is a senior physician in the Department of Thoracic Surgery and Lung Transplantation at the University Hospital of Padua.

She looks back fondly on an experiential and exciting time at our clinic.

“A beautiful and amazing experience both from professional and personal point of view. I had the opportunity to learn a lot on lung transplantation, CTEPH, mesothelioma both from clinical and scientific point of view.”

But Eleonora was also extremely satisfied with the overall organization. She found the communication in the clinic very efficient and the cordiality of the THO team very much appreciated.

We are happy about this and thank them for their great work with us.

C.K. is a medical student at the University of Lausanne and completed a one-week internship with us to get an idea of the daily clinical routine of thoracic surgery. Despite the few days in the clinic, she was able to take away a few exciting experiences at the end of the week, for which she was very grateful. We are very pleased about that. We wish her all the best and much success.

Her feedback to the clinic: “Very welcoming team, despite my very bad German skills. So happy to have had this opportunity and, even though it was a calm week, I got to see some operations and how your clinic works.”

Mauro Razuk Filho was visiting us during the whole month of February. In particular, his goal was to gain insight into the topics of mesothelioma, lung volume reduction (LVRS), and lung transplantation. Mauro Razuk Filho is a resident in thoracic surgery at the Heart Institute of the University of São Paulo in Brazil (Instituto do Coração do Hospital das Clínicas).

He described the overall impression of his stay in our clinic with the following words: “My stay at USZ, although short, was extremely productive! I was able to observe several different procedures in thoracic surgery. It enriched my view of thoracic surgery and provided me with knowledge of how different services work, their demands and their expertise.”

He always felt supported and understood by the thoracic surgery team, and despite his lack of German, he was able to communicate with everyone in English. Finally, he added,“The Department of Thoracic Surgery at USZ is exceptional as well as all members of their team!”

We are very happy about his feedback and wish him all the best for his future.

Medical student J. G. visited us for a month to gain experience and impressions in the field of surgery. During this time, she had the opportunity to deepen her knowledge in thoracic surgery as well as to perform complex procedures, e.g. experience a pulmonary endarterectomy and video- and robot-assisted thoracoscopies (VATS, RATS) up close.

She felt very welcome from the beginning and found her observership to be a valuable experience:

Organized pre-arrangement with the administration office that demonstrated to be welcoming and careful towards my needs and me in every single occasion.

One of the most valuable experience of a professional and academic career. The department is fortunate to have a very welcoming team that treated me as a colleague from the first day on, making it easier for me to integrate into their work environment and for this; I want to thank them from all my heart.

Outside the University Hospital, she recommends that new visitors visit the National Museum, walk along the Limmat (river) and hike in the mountains.

Kudzayi Kutywayo is a thoracic surgeon at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, England. His great interest belongs to minimally invasive surgery and transplantation. A scholarship for an “SCTS Non-NTN Ionescu Fellowship” enabled him to make this trip to Zurich to observe our experts in their daily work during two weeks. «I was quickly indoctrinated into their daily routine which included ICU ward rounds, transplant ward round, surgery, multidisciplinary meetings (tumour boards) and educational meetings».

When asked why he chose the Department of Thoracic Surgery at the University Hospital in Zurich, he said: «The Thoracic surgery department is a renowned centre for surgery, research and training». He said he noticed from the start that the workflow is very efficient and also that operations start on time and follow each other with minimal breaks.

Kudzayi also had the opportunity during his residency – in addition to various robot-assisted procedures – to be part of the 100th PEA. A surgical procedure performed on CTEPH patients, that is, patients with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension.

In conclusion, Kudzayi says: «Overall, this was an enlightening and self-expansive experience for me. A debt of gratitude is owed by myself to the SCTS Ionescu Fellowship for affording me this opportunity and my unit, Glenfield Hospital, Department of Thoracic surgery for allowing me time off to make this trip. Finally, I would like to extend my wholehearted appreciation and thanks to Professor Schmitt-Opitz and her team for making my stay worthwhile and indeed memorable. »

We thank Kudzayi for his appreciative words! All the best and good luck for the future.

Man in surgery with utensils in hand.

Another field report by K. Kutywayo was published in the “SCTS The Bulletin” of January 2022.

Monika Švorcová works as a surgeon at the University Motol Hospital in Prague. In view of her specialization in the field of thoracic surgery, she wanted to gain new experience in this area. In October 2021, she therefore looked over the shoulders of our experienced thoracic surgeons for two weeks. She writes about her stay, among other things:

“I was touched by careful handling patients/ doctors / stuff and also impressed by a range of thoracic procedures, including robotic surgery and also involving the online broadcast from OR to lecture hall for students. There is also an impressing connection between clinical and research area.”

Monika was especially excited and inspired by the efforts of Prof. Schmitt-Opitz. “My appreciation especially leads to Professor Opitz for seeing her ability of progressive leadership of the thoracic surgery in Zurich. It is very encouraging particularly for women in surgery.” But also the whole team of the Department of Thoracic Surgery supported her during her stay. “Thank you to all people I have met for their nice dealing, helpfulness and wiliness of sharing the same experience.”

We wish Monika all the best and much success.

Ishandeep Singh is a second-year BSc Biomedical Science student at King’s College, Londen. At the time of applying for an internship, he was considering enrolling in medical school. To find out if medicine really appeals to him, he interned with us. During two weeks, Ishan Singh therefore looked over the shoulders of our team. About his internship with us, he says:

“To have such a balanced experience of spending time in the wards seeing doctors interact with patients – to watch surgeries in the OR, was exactly the type of experience I hoped to gain.”

And what about the desire to study medicine now? To this end, Ishan Singh writes:

“As an aspiring medical student, this experience not only solidified my aspirations but gave me a unique insight into the field of medicine. To have been able to see surgeries in the thorax clinic and learn about some of the techniques and mindset of a surgeon has really motivated me to study medicine.”

We wish Ishan Singh all the best and much success in medical school!

Anna Nechay is a 5th year student at the Medical University in Vienna. She is particularly interested in surgical specialties and has therefore inquired about an internship with us. Ms. Nechay visited us for two weeks in July 2021. She talks about her internship with us as follows:

“Während meines Internship am Universitätsspital Zürich habe ich viele hochwertige Erfahrungen sammeln können. Obwohl ich nur zwei Wochen in der Klinik für Thoraxchirurgie verbracht habe, hatte ich die Möglichkeit, das ganze Team kennen zu lernen, verschiedene Operationen, Operationstechniken und Behandlungsansätze zu sehen. Zudem konnte ich das Labor besuchen”.

In her feedback to us, she further writes that the internship exceeded all her expectations and that she is very satisfied and grateful that she was able to intern with us.

“Es war für mich eine Ehre von so viele intelligenten und inspirierenden Spezialisten umgegeben zu sein. Ich habe mein Wissen über die Arbeit am daVinci-Roboter, die Durchführung der pulmonalen Endarterektomie bei einer CTEPH und bei einer Lungentransplantation erweitern können. Dabei wurden alle meine zahlreichen Fragen gerne und ausführlich beantwortet”.

In addition, Ms. Nechay also had the opportunity to ask her numerous questions, which our team was happy to answer. She also had the opportunity to discuss topics related to her career planning and development strategy with our experts.

We wish Anna Nechay all the best and much success!

In February 2020, three colleagues from SPM Memorial Hospital Salem, Tamilnadu in India visited us in the Department of Thoracic Surgery. Knowledge and experience could be exchanged during an LVRS course. The feedback regarding their stay in Switzerland was quite positive:

“Respected Prof Isabelle Schmitt-Opitz,

Our team landed safely in India on 2.March.2020. On the way back, we kept contemplating the week that just passed at your institution. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting The LVRS Programme at the USZ Department of Thoracic Surgery.

It was a truly a Masterful Execution of the Programme, and I must say, we were literally on our toes, to absorb as much knowledge in the short time we had there.

Individually we would like to thank Dr Didier Schneiter for his excellent surgical skills, Dr Sven Hillinger for scheduling the “perfect” patients for surgery, Dr Claudio Caviezel for his guidance on how to start the programme at our Center (and his infectious humour) and Prof Inci for his demonstration of Lung Transplantation. Dr Thomas Frauenfelder made an impactful presentation on the role of radiology in selecting patients. We were very impressed with Dr Rolf Schupbach, who helped us understand the important concepts of perioperative and intraoperative care. He patiently clarified all queries that our Anesthesiologist had.

We were also very grateful to have Prof Walter Weder enlighten us on LVRS. We were very pleased that he could spare his time for us.

Dr Velraj, our Pulmonologist, was very appreciative of the fact that he could witness Bronchoscopic Interventions at the Interventional Pulmonology Suite, Thanks to Prof Malcolm Kolher and Dr Daniel Franzen. He was also fascinated by the concept of a Pulmonary Hypertension Board and Pulmonary Endarterectomy.

A special thanks to Dr Katarzyna Furrer for patiently guiding us through the programme. She took great care that we were part of every Clinical discussion and graciously translated Swiss-German for us. Without her we would have been lost.

The experience that we had completely overwhelmed us, and we learnt so much more, many things that cannot be read in a journal publication, but can only be understood in person, and we thank you for giving us the opportunity. The following were the highlights of the Programme:

1. Practical Didactic Lectures from pioneers in the field of LVRS.
2. Involvement in the Multi-Disciplinary Emphysema Board.
3. One-on-One interaction with Thoracic Surgeons, Pulmonologists, Anesthesiologists and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Specialists.
4. Excellent Case selection for Surgical Demonstrative Purposes.
5. In depth notes on Perioperative Care of the patient.

We are now back and committed to start a Structured Programme at our hospital, in the same lines that you have organised at USZ. I hope we can continue to get support from your team, to fine tune our efforts here. We promise that many patients will benefit from this.

I am sure that you have received the traditional wooden sculpture of the Lord Hanuman. We wanted to give it in person, but couldn’t find you. Hanuman holds a special place in Hindu Mythology – he is a symbol of “Strength” and “Wisdom”. I hope His presence benefits the Department.

If you have the opportunity to come to India, please visit us, we would be honoured to host you.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Saravana Rajamanickam, Dr Velraj and Dr Balamurugan”

We thank you for the exciting exchange and look forward to seeing you again soon!

Laurens Ceulemans from the UZ Leuven in Belgium completed a fellowship from January 01 to June 30, 2019. He summarizes his experience during this time at the Thoracic Surgery Clinic as follows:

“During this stay, supported by the ESTS Biology Club, the Horlait-Dapsens foundation, the European Society of Organ Transplantation and the FWO (Flanders), I was given the unique opportunity to combine a research and clinical fellowship. In the lab I could acquire the expertise of two unique models: rat ex-vivo lung perfusion and rat lung transplantation. In the clinics I was welcome to join any procedure or meeting and during my stay I focused on mesothelioma treatment, lung volume reduction surgery and lobar transplantation. Three clinical programs for which the University Hospitals Zürich is a world renown center. Both in clinics and the lab, staff was extremely friendly and open to learn me as much as possible.”

Laurens Ceulemans was accompanied by his family during his stay in Zurich.

“My family (wife and two daughters) could join me during these 6 months. My wife was also able to perform a fellowship at the department of abdominal surgery and the hospital was very helpful in finding an excellent kindergarten (USZ) for our children.
Zurich and Switzerland is a fantastic place to live. We rented a furnished apartment near the lake (Seefeld) where we had a wonderful time and explored the city and country. Switzerland is very well adapted to small children and my wife and I could join short ski tours close to Zürich. In spring, the lake is the place to be.”

Sein Fazit über das Fellowship:

“This experience abroad in one of the best thoracic centers worldwide was crucial in the further development of my career as a thoracic surgeon in Leuven, Belgium. I am very grateful to the whole Zürich team. For my family it was an unforgettable experience and adventure that we will cherish.”

We thank Laurens Ceulemans for being part of our team and for the positive feedback! We are looking forward to a good cooperation and wish him and his family all the best!

One female doctor and two male doctors group photo

Prof. Dr. I. Schmitt-Optiz, Prof. Dr. W. Weder and Dr. L. Ceulemans during his fellowship in Zurich, 2019.

Aysegül Cevik from Uludag University Faculty of Medicine in Bursa, Turkey, interned at the Department of Thoracic Surgery in August 2019. She describes her experience with us as follows:

“During my surgical internship at the University of Zurich, I got to know the conditions in the hospitals in Switzerland and had the opportunity to actively observe the work of both the operating room and the university hospital. In addition, I was able to learn from the experiences of my colleagues and my professors in the various cases. All of the staff in the department was really warm, helpful and welcoming.”

A great advantage was certainly that Ms. Cevik had knowledge of German, which simplified integration in the team.

“My internship in Switzerland was unforgettable during my studies abroad and I would like to visit Switzerland again for both touristic or career reasons.”

We were very happy to meet Aysegül Cevik!

Turkish woman during observership at USZ

Aysegül Cevik in the operating room at Zurich University Hospital and at the Christmas market in Zurich.

In 2018, Dr. Masahi Furukawa completed a one-month observership in the Department of Thoracic Surgery. The feedback on his stay with us:

“A hugh variety of surgeries. I had never seen surgeries such as lung transplant and robotic surgery. So it was a good opportunity for me. They were also doing lots of research activities. These experience was good for me.

Now I work at the University of Pittsburgh as a lung transplant fellow. My experience at the University Hospital in Zurich changed my career. Thank you very much.”

We are pleased that we could be an enrichment and inspiration for Dr. Masahi Furukawa’s professional career.

Japanese during Observership

Dr. Masaki Hashimoto and Dr. Masashi Furukawa, Japan.